TSMC turns to Xilinx partnership to maintain edge

By Lisa Wang  /  Staff reporter

Thu, May 30, 2013 - Page 13

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) yesterday said it would start shipments of 16-nanometer (nm) chips to US-based Xilinx Inc next year, as the company accelerates production of advanced process technologies to maintain its industry leadership.

The move follows the Taiwanese chipmaker extending its partnership with the US company and it plans to deliver the first test chips made with 16nm FinFET process technology later this year, TSMC said in a statement.

FinFET process technology enables foundries to make 3D chips with lower power usage.

TSMC’s announcement comes amid growing concerns about the firm’s technological competitiveness after long-term customer Altera Corp last month shifted to partner with Intel Corp on 14nm technology development.

“TSMC’s alliance extension with Xilinx should ease concerns of its ability to ramp [up] the 3D process [chips] and instead help it reach commercial volume,” Credit Suisse analyst Randy Abrams said in a report yesterday.

Xilinx president and chief executive Moshe Gavrielov said he expected the company’s collaboration with TSMC on 16nm technology to bring the same positive results as found previously in the development of 28nm and 20nm system-on-a-chip (SOC) process technologies.

TSMC chairman and chief executive officer Morris Chang (張忠謀) said the company aimed to help its customers get new products to market quickly.

“Together we will deliver world-class products using TSMC’s 20[nm] SOC technology this year and using 16[nm] FinFET technology next year,” Chang said in the statement.

TSMC said it is scheduled to start mass producing 16nm chips a year after production of its 20nm chips reaches full volume. The chipmaker started “risk production” of 20nm chips in the first quarter of this year. Risk production involves producing sample products prior to beginning mass production.

The company plans to spend a record US$9.5 billion to US$10 billion on new equipment to meet demand, mostly on 28nm, 20nm and 16nm technologies, Chang said earlier this year.

Separately, Siliconware Precision Industries Co (SPIL, 矽品精密), the world’s second-largest chip tester and packager, yesterday said its board had approved a plan to raise capital spending by about 32 percent to NT$14.9 billion (US$495 million) this year from its previous budget of NT$11.3 billion.

The capital will be used to boost advanced packaging and testing capacities, Siliconware said in a filing to the Taiwan Stock Exchange. The company will adjust spending in response to customer demand and market sentiment, it added.

TSMC’s shares rose 1.37 percent to NT$111 yesterday, outperforming the TAIEX, which rose 0.91 percent. Shares of Siliconware fell 0.14 percent to NT$35.3.